The following legend is that of Downey Lane, a haunted road in Roseville, California.
“I come from a town called Roseville California. It’s been around for a really long time, it actually used to be a big railroad stop and so it became a really huge city based on the railroad. It’s small now cause the railroad isn’t running through anymore. But um… uh… there’s this one lane on the outskirts of town, like where the rural area kind of is—I actually live pretty close to it which scares the crap out of me, but it’s called Downey Lane. The legend is that back in civil war times, seven completely innocent black men were hung on the trees that line Downey Lane. And so one of the things that you are kind of obligated to do is to drive down Downey Lane with your headlights off. They say that the souls cursed the place. I had a friend who is really susceptible to psychic impulses—she was taken to the road and she walked just like a couple of steps down it and she started screaming, turned around, and ran. She said that she got a really really oppressive feeling. But it’s pretty scary and she went during the middle of the day.
Last year two of my friends, when I went back visiting home said, “you have to come with us and we’re driving you down Downey Lane.” I had never been down this road before. It’s out of the way and you usually don’t take it to go anywhere because it’s kind of in the farmland kind of area, so you don’t really need to go down the lane very often, especially in the dark. So they took me and it was actually pretty close to—well it was really late. It might have been like 10-11 o-clock. But we go down and roll down the windows and turn off the headlights and they are telling me these stories of how wild dogs will come and attack you and how people will run you off the road and as we were going down this road we noticed a car on the side of the road. And we were like, “okay this is really kind of creepy.” Just in case me and my friend, we ducked down cause we’re both girls and didn’t want to be seen, like if there’s any sketchy guys. And my friend’s boyfriend kept on driving, and so we kept driving for a little bit and I told them, “okay this is really spooky guys, can we just turn around soon and go,” and they were like, “no, just a little bit further.” And then we see headlights come up behind us, and we turn around and we think it’s the same car. They had the floodlights on—just as bright as it can go—and they start speeding up behind us. So we’re like, “crap!” We turn on the headlights and we start going faster, cause we’re like shit this person’s coming up really fast behind us and we speed up and they keep following us, speeding up more and more, and we’re tearing down the road at this point, cause we’re terrified that these are the people who go and drive people off the road. We eventually got around a corner, we turned our headlights off and were like ok, maybe—cause we had got far enough ahead of him that we could do that—we were like, ok, maybe they’ll just like stop and turn around. And they did stop, headlights still up, and we’re like ok… this road is basically almost like a one way road that just ends but uh… we didn’t want to go all the way around because it would have taken us a very long time to get back to the main street if we kept going the way we were and so we turned around, which I’m not sure if that was really a smart idea or not, cause, the car was still there with its brights still on. So we went back and were like ok they aren’t following us. Then the other car turned around and started following us a little bit more. One again we’re like, “oh my god, oh my god, we’re going to die” and then it stopped and started blinking its lights at us. By that point were just gassed it and drove off the road and went straight home.
There headlights were so bright that we couldn’t see who was driving and like, my friends were thinking it was probably just some gang members. They like to hide out here, run people off the road, and beat them for there stuff. But ya know… it was still really scary and creepy.”
My informant explained that her town has a troubled past with race relations, thus the legend of a haunted road as a result of past racism acts as a reminder of past misdeeds not to be repeated. While my informant does genuinely believe there is something haunted–or at least off about Downey Lane, she also thinks there there is likelihood that the legend might have been created as a reason to keep people away from what is a dangerous area. As her experience exemplifies, driving down the road at night has serious risks. The road is isolated, hard to get to, has no street lights, and is essentially the perfect place to get mugged. Furthermore, according to my informant, the wild dogs are actually a problem in the area.
“As my friend and her boyfriend were driving me down the road they were like, yeah, one of my friends who drove down this got—he was just driving down it and a wild dog just jumped hon the hood and started barking at him and he kept driving cause he’s like “ahhhh dog!”
As terrifying as the process of driving down Downey Lane was for my informant, she explained it as something everyone from her town has to do at least once. For the kids in her town, facing the terror that is Downey Lane is a coming of age ritual.